It's odd: while it's not uncommon for Nintendo to release games that bring together loads of its characters (Smash Bros, Mario Kart and the countless other Mario sports games spring to mind), it's not something that Sega does too often. Indeed, with the exception of a dodgy EyeToy game released a few years back, most Sega characters have never really featured in anything other than their own series. As a result, Sega Superstars Tennis is something of a rarity, and seeing the various characters interacting with each other feels all the more special.
What's most exciting for older Sega fans is the fact that many of the characters in the game haven't been seen in almost a decade, sometimes more. Although the various Sonic characters are obviously still in the limelight to this day, the likes of Beat and Gum from Jet Set Radio, Ulala from Space Channel 5 and Alex Kidd from the Master System and Mega Drive days have come
out of long retirements to feature here.
There are 16 characters in total, representing a variety of Sega games past and present. Whether you were a Sega fan back in the Mega Drive days (you'll be pleased to see Alex Kidd and Gilius from Golden Axe), or are a more recent gamer, there's something here for everyone. There are also a wide variety of playable courts representing such Sega classics as Outrun and House Of The Dead, and around 60 music tracks that can be unlocked as you progress through the game.
Thankfully, despite all the bells and whistles strapped onto it, the gameplay is still the most enjoyable aspect of Sega Superstars Tennis. It's a good job too: as exciting as it is for us to play as Samba from Samba De Amigo and Aiai from Super Monkey Ball, if it wasn't fun to play the novelty would soon wear off.
New Balls Please
It uses a modified version of the popular Virtua Tennis 3 engine. If you haven't played Virtua Tennis before, this means that the action is fast and arcade-like but still offers a fantastic degree of control and a wide variety of shots. This makes the game extremely easy to get to grips with. Within a few matches you'll be smashing and lobbing like a pro.
There are only two buttons compared to Virtua Tennis' four, but the missing lob and drop shot buttons can still be activated by pressing 1 then 2 for a lob, or 2 then 1 for a drop shot.
This is assuming you're playing with the 'Traditional' controller set-up. This sees you playing with the Remote on its side like a normal joypad, as you would for Virtual Console games. If you were expecting the Wii Sports experience, don't worry: there's the option to play by swinging the Remote like a racquet as you would in Nintendo's game. The slow and fast shots are determined by the speed of your swing and you can still play lobs and drop shots by holding B or A as you swing.
Swing When You're Winning
If you choose the Remote-swinging control method, you can either choose to have your players move automatically (just like in Wii Sports), or plug in a Nunchuk so you can move your player with the analogue stick for extra control. Although it's not mentioned in the menus, if you opt for 'Traditional' you can also plug in a Classic Controller and play using that.
The one major addition Sega Superstars Tennis brings to the standard Virtua Tennis gameplay is the addition of Superstar States. Each character has the outline of a star under their feet, and as you play well (be that by playing complex shots or winning points) the star begins to slowly fill up. When it fills, you can trigger your character's Superstar State.
This does two things. It affects the path of the ball when you hit it (for example, when Ulala hits the ball in her Superstar State its path goes in the shape of a number five and when Nights hits it, it travels in a spiral). Secondly, should your opponent manage to hit the ball, they'll trigger another event (if you can hit an Alex Kidd stroke a weight will fall from the sky which you'll have to avoid, and if you hit Aiai's ball it'll drop bananas on the court). It adds a bit of fun to proceedings, but if you're a tennis purist you can turn this feature off.